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Adopting in Ashburn

What began in France moved to Washington, DC and then the suburbs. Let the adventures in Ashburn continue.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Petit Fours - Finalement

And to continue my photo blogging in the midst of actual other activities this evening (like winning a volleyball game - Go Foxchase!) I present the end result of the multi-step petit fours process from a couple weeks ago and a team photo from our pizza outing.



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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

As usual ...

... I owe you some serious details. Not blogging for a month at a time is detrimental to my mental health (no venting) and I feel like I lose touch with everyone (as not blogging typically corresponds with not having time to read many blogs). So, as a quick catch up, I'm going to do a series of photo blogs over the next couple of days that should vaguely get you up to speed on my life.

Minor surgery that resulted in a MRSA infection for three weeks of fun stuffing a ping-pong ball sized hole with cotton.





New Orleans

A corn stalk fence in the Garden District, the Mississippi River (there was calliope music from a riverboat playing in the background), and an amazing cathedral.












Billy Joel - my prime motivation for Jazz Fest, and we had to leave early (couldn't risk making my infection worse) because we were standing in 2 inches of water. Nothing about us was dry by the time we got back to the hotel.












Seven bags of donations later ... I finally got rid of a sweater I have been wearing since the second grade.
Birthday dinner with the Grey's Anatomy group and a raspberry-lemon cake Paula Dean style for dessert.


More photos soon ...

Love always, ~Heather

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Petit Fours - Essaye 2

Today I tried again with the petit fours. All in all, even my mistakes worked out well.

First, I made a yellow cake. I'm not sure why, but the cake I make from a box tastes better than both of this weekends homemade cakes. This is my first time going from scratch on cake batter like this though, so I just need to figure out how to get a bit more moisture in them. All in all, they are pretty good - just not heavenly.

My fist attempt at the ganache today didn't go well. Either I was distracted by having to talk HOBY during baking, or I am generally not all there, but I used 100% cocoa bars. This is bad because it means there is no sweetness whatsoever. So I added 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 heavy cream with 2 tablespoons of butter (boiled). The result was not ganache. But, it was truffle batter.

My first major mistake of the day turned into a tray of over fifty truffles that I am going to dip in the leftover white chocolate ganache and tomorrow's milk chocolate. Yeah for truffles!

My second round of ganache came out brilliantly. Somewhere mid-icing, I got really hungry (it was 8:45) so I made sea scallops for dinner. First time there, and they were pretty good. I need to select my fish better next time though.

When I got back to icing the little cakes (I made the yellow cake in 1/4 filled cupcake pans and then a big, thin, sheet cake), the ganache had cooled considerably. I didn't think to reheat it and it took about 45 minutes to ice 9 cakes.

I got smart and realized I was wasting the icing (and killing myself with crumbs), so I reheated it over boiling water and then iced the rest of the cakes.

Right now there are 25 small cakes in my microwave (on stacked trays, obviously). I already rinsed and cooled the fruit, laying them on a towel so the color would seep out there, instead of into the white chocolate frosting I'm going to use to attach them to the cakes tomorrow.

The most essential part of the petit fours is now done. Tomorrow I have to:
  1. Roll, freeze, and sculpt the colored fondant into fun baby-like shapes
  2. Whip the white chocolate ganache into frosting.
  3. Slice some of the kiwi for cake toppings.
  4. Make another round of ganache for dipping the truffles and touch-ups.
  5. Use the gel design stuff to write/draw on the cakes that don't have fruit or fondant.
I'm hoping the decorating is more fun than the past few stages. Even though I enjoyed myself, it has felt like work. I hope the making things pretty is easier and more exciting.

Hugs to all,

~Heather

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Petit Fours - Essaye 1

My first try at making petit fours tonight was mostly successful.

First - a petit fours (French for "little ovens") are small, individual cakes. Think fancy-shmancy bakery style individual cakes that have fondant (icing that is sculpted or laid on as opposed to spread on with a knife).

The chocolate cake, made from scratch, rose and came out of the pan without breaking. It is moderately moist (oven temperature was too low, so it took a long time to cook) and not at all burnt. Unfortunately, it is only a 50% success because the cake is too big. Tomorrow I need to make them in the same size pan, but use two pans for the same amount of cake so they are thinner and therefore bite size.

As a note, I cannot just cut the big cake into smaller pieces, because then there are lots of crumbs, which mess up the icing.

The other major part of the petit fours is the icing. I decided to go with a ganache (a pourable icing that is basically melted chocolate and enough cream to make it liquidy). These are for a baby shower and so we wanted to go with a white exterior and chocolate interior. I tried a white chocolate ganache. Everything went to plan, and I didn't have to double boil the chocolate or anything. The kicker is that it does not cool "white" so much as clear.

So, right now I have giant chunks of chocolate cake with a white chocolate glaze.

But, the extra good news is that I did attempt an uncooked fondant (this is much easier than a cooked one because you don't need to monitor the exact temperature of the mixture). This came out stunningly. It tastes yummy (courtesy of my almond extract) and looks great (four different shades of pastel). I practiced rolling it between wax paper, and I should be able to use this tomorrow to either completely cover the mini cakes (I'll need to quadruple the recipe though) or just cut out miniature flowers, bottles, and other baby-style things from the batch I have in there now.

Tomorrow's to-do:
  1. Call boss and tell her that petit fours a la Heather are a go (with warning and an invite to confirm the round two product is what she was expecting).
  2. Make two types of ganache with milk/bittersweet/dark chocolate to be used as an exterior coat or to dip the strawberries that will adorn some of the petit fours.
  3. Bake another cake that is much thinner.
  4. Make more fondant for decoration or wrapping.
All of that in addition to finishing my laundry, hanging the pictures in my room, scouting out an apartment for a friend, church, and hopefully hanging out with someone I've been trying to meet up with for months (they'll be watching the cake making). Oh yeah, and I have tons of HOBY stuff to do.

Sigh, these cakes are going to be delicious. They must be delicious!

Love always,
~Heather

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Congratulations are in Order

Congratulations are in order to quite a few people:

First, to my dearest goddaughter who has accepted a slot at William & Mary, where she'll begin her freshman year in August. I am so proud of her for making this big decision. Not only will she be going out of state to school, but chose this over a better financial aid package elsewhere because it was the right academic program and atmosphere for her. All that, and she'll only be a couple hours away now, so I'll get to see her more (fingers crossed). Couldn't be more proud.

Next, to Anthony, our accompanist at church, who performed an amazing organ recital two weekends ago. I'd never heard modern-ish organ music before and it was a real treat. Plus, I got to visit the Catholic University campus for the first time.

To Dana, who is still debating, but has made some really difficult choices and followed her instincts in choosing an amazing school to get her PhD at. I'm sad to have her leave, but now have an excuse to visit Wisconsin!

Finally, to my Earth-loving Yale-y, who got a presidential fellowship and will be moving to DC soon. I'm so thrilled that she got this amazing position and even more excited that we'll be living in the same town again.

Congratulations to all. You've each achieved greatness and I'm blessed to know you.

~Heather

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Rumors: All about the Dancing

Last night I went out with Dana, Kate, and Rachel to Rumors near Dupont Circle. The celebration began at home with pizza, raspberry cosmos (delicious!), and other raspberry-inspired treats. We metro-ed up and got there just as the place was starting to get full for the evening. We meandered from inside to outside dancing like no one was watching and having a fabulous time.

I have not had a girls' night in ages, so it was such a blast to be surrounded by friends who I adore. Dana had me toast my upcoming birthday with my first shot ever, a Dirty Girl Scout. And although I did not accept, I was offered a drink by one of my dancing companions (another first for me).

I unfortunately forgot to take pictures of all of us looking like - well let's just say fabulous is an understatement. And, as smart girls will, we all wore flats so we could dance all night (though I was superiorly tempted to wear my fun shoes!). Two of us had close encounters (the fun kind) and all four of us had plenty of harmless flirting to enjoy, which I credit not to our outfits (though they didn't hurt), but to how much more confident all of us are when we are having fun.

The fun lasted until one of us realized that if we didn't leave the bar, we were going to miss the last metro home. So still remarkably sober (at least the majority of us), we went over the events of the evening on the trip home before digging into the leftover pizza and falling quickly to sleep.

There are other rumors out there about specific encounters, but it isn't nice to spread them. Instead, I'll just suggest you check the place out for yourselves. I've never not had a good time there, and last night was the best time I've had going out in DC yet.

Love to all, especially the girls,

~Heather

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Sojourn (for now)

I have fun things to tell you about - like Passover with Rachel and her family, the work trip to New Orleans (with Theresa), two consecutive nights of Grey's with friends, Anthony's organ recital, Jazz Fest, my crazy surgery (and subsequent side effects), the upcoming housewarming party, my goddaughter choosing to go to William & Mary, and all the other sundry things that have popped up since my last solid post.

But tonight, I am having a girls' night with Dana, Rachel, Kate, Malise, and potentially Irene and co. I am wearing my fun new going out clothes (bought weeks ago in prep for a milestone in my weight loss program) to celebrate life in general and being all finished with my antibiotics. This outfit includes shoes that are going to make somebody .... let's just say they are my "goddess" shoes. So, in lieu of writing, I'm running home to get a shower and otherwise make myself appropriate for the festivities.

I have no words for how pumped I am. I think the hurricane (fruity drink, not actually tempestuous storm) from last weekend is still swirling around in me, because for the first time in a long time, I'm ready to go out and be super social. I haven't been this "going-out-ish" since probably sophomore year of college when we went out basically every Thursday (and a number of Saturdays).

Could be the start of a new phase. Either way, I promise this phase will involve more blogging. I miss talking to all of you!

Have a good one (I'll post pictures - if appropriate- tomorrow).

~Heather

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